These are lessons learned the hard way.

  1. Learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them.
  2. Control your emotions or they will control you.
  3. Don’t say anything you can’t stand behind fully.
  4. Don’t assume, ask.
  5. Remain silent if you are not prepared to act.
  6. Say what you have to say in the fewest possible words.
  7. Ego and pride can lead to mistakes.
  8. Make decisions based on what you know rather than what you feel.
  9. Expectations = Disappointment. Don’t expect anything.
  10. Don’t go into debt.
  11. Whatever it is you’re running from, confront it.
  12. Make it asymmetrical, stack advantages.
  13. Begin nothing until you have considered how it is to be finished.
  14. Tremendous detailed planning, violent execution.
  15. Success is all about great execution.
  16. Don’t make excuses when you fall short, instead make corrections.
  17. Don’t create problems if there are none.
  18. The solution is in the problem.
  19. Always have a PACE for everything.
  20. Forget all the above rules. Remain fluid.

Learn From Your Mistakes And Don’t Repeat Them

We all make mistakes. I have made my share of them. The issue is not making them, the issue is not learning from them. Learn from every mistake, and work hard to make sure you don’t repeat them.

Control Your Emotions Or They Will Control You

I have an issue with anger. It’s a mix of my nature, my past life, and the TBI. I have been working very hard to control that. And control emotions generally speaking. You should control them, and not the other way around. They will get you in trouble, and they will prevent you from making the right decisions.

Don’t Say Anything You Can’t Stand Behind Fully

Simply don’t. If you are going to open your mouth, and state something, you better make sure that thing can be proved.

Don’t Assume, Ask

Assumption is the mother of all fuckups. It’s a true statement. Do no assume things are as you think they are. Ask questions, check the data. It will prevent pain.

Remain Silent If You Are Not Prepared To Act

Unless you are ready to go for it, full on, do not say you will do something. Remain silent. I know all too well, I was there, I was one of them. I still suffer from this, but I am putting a lot of effort today to really speak when I can then show that what I said has substance.

Say What You Have To Say In The Fewest Possible Words

Brevity is key. BLUF.

Ego And Pride Can Lead To Mistakes

Ego, right there with emotions, is one of the main reasons you get in trouble. Suppress the ego. Don’t let it control you. Ego will cloud your ability to make sound decisions, and will get you in trouble with other people. Become a person that own his or her shit, and remain humble. I recommend you read Extreme Ownership.

Make Decisions Based On What You Know Rather Than What You Feel

Gut feeling is a good thing, listen to you gut. When it talks it’s usually right. However, most of the time, the gut is silent and you need to trust your head. Collect information, analyze it, and only then make a decision.

Expectations = Disappointment. Don’t Expect Anything

Simple: if you expect something to happen, most likely it will not happen. So, don’t wait for it, and if it happens you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Don’t Go Into Debt

It’s hard to get out of it. It can make your life a living hell. Don’t live beyond your means. Save your money.

Whatever It Is You’re Running From, Confront It

Running from your problems will not solve them. The problems will follow you wherever you go. So, confront them instead. Own your mistakes, fix them and make peace with them. The solution is in the problem.

Make It Asymmetrical, Stack Advantages

It’s about stacking the odds in your favor. Period. Make sure you fight with a guerrilla mindset, and asymmetrical warfare techniques. Turn the table and collect those advantages.

Begin Nothing Until You Have Considered How It Is To Be Finished

Unless you enjoy having a collection of never finished things, always know where things will end. Either by finishing them, or having an exit plan. Never leave anything open, unless you are planning to go back to it.

Tremendous Detailed Planning, Violent Execution

Go deep in the details. Think about contingencies, and issues. Red team the plan. Make sure you account for all the risks. Then, go all in.

Success Is All About Great Execution

It’s all about execution. If you planned it right but execution failed because it was poorly carried out, then it was for nothing.

Don’t Make Excuses When You Fall Short, Instead Make Corrections

Own it. Own your problems, your failures, and your bullshit. Learn from mistakes and do not repeat them.

Don’t Create Problems If There Are None

Keep your mouth shut. Not everything requires a reaction, or needs an opinion. Keep it quiet.

The Solution Is In The Problem

Look at the issue straight in the center. Most likely you will find how to solve it if you embrace that problem.

Always Have A PACE For Everything

Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency. It's about having a Plan B, but also understanding that everything will eventually fail. Have contingencies and an escape plan. Be ready for the worst. When it happens, you'll know what to do.

Forget All The Above Rules. Remain Fluid

This rule is here to make you stop. Stop one second. Stop, look around, make a call. But make a call based on what you are seeing on the ground, on what people are telling you, on the information you have collected. Once there, you can decide if the rulebook still applies, and follow it - a good rulebook is meant to be followed, as are standard operating procedures (SOPs) - but, if you see the rulebook doesn’t adapt to the reality you are seeing, well, discard it. Adapt, and follow a different set of SOPs.


The Lessons

The year 2020 was hard, but also it was a chance to learn a lot about ourselves, how we do things, and what’s important to us.

Things are and probably will remain different now, and it has been challenging. In spite of having vaccines in the horizon, and knowing more about the virus, it is still a tough time. Some people are exhausted by the uncertainty, the fear, and the anxiety they are facing. Some others are scared of what the future will bring, finding themselves without employment, or unable to fulfill their jobs fully. Add to this the constant need to make decisions with little information and the stress multiplies rapidly. Even the smallest of decisions require more effort than usual, partially because we are drained after almost a year of constantly being on the edge.

Throughout the past months, as I adjusted the routines and other things to the “new normal”, I realized that one thing stood up front and center as the one thing that helped: simplicity.

I realized that the more I simplified the processes, the routines, the technology, and pretty much every single aspect of my daily life that I could control, the better I was able to deal with the uncertainty.

To quote the Glorious Professionals: “Have a deployment mindset.”

During a deployment, we would carry with us very little, and we would have little control over the things around us, from our own time, to engagements with the enemy. We learned to live with little, adapt, make do, and have our priorities straight. We didn’t need much, and we would have brutally simple ways of doing things to maximize the things we did have control over. We learn to live one day at the time.

Like then, things need to move forward. We control little, but we control some. We must keep pushing. We have to learn, adapt, and move forward.

“And that circles back to, 'controlling what you can control.' Treat it as a process that eventually produces the capacity to address more of what you can’t control. If all you can control is your body, or your desire, start with that. Slowly you’ll learn how little influence you have over the world around you but that taking the reins of your health and fitness reduces the effect of the currents trying to push and pull you off of your course. It’s a small thing. Enough small things become a big thing. The more you control your own self, the more control you wrest from those who would decide what is best for you.”

— Mark Twight, Control

So, have a deployment mindset. Simplify how you approach things. The processes you use to get things done, and the priorities you set to yourself and your family have to be and remain easy to understand and follow. The key is to make everything simpler by identifying what truly matter to you. Then making sure the things you need and how you need then are the simplest they can be.

We will come out of this. The question remains though, will we come out having learned anything?

I will come out on the other side having learned the value of what’s important, and how to simplify everything that I can control, making sure that value is maximized and that I can get the best return for my effort.

I hope you can learn to prioritize and simplify. Focus on your immediate needs, and discard the things that will weight you down. You can’t control everything, and not everything is important.

In light of this, I revisited the old rules I had posted on the site, grabbed some of the new ones learned after COVID hit, and factored in life giving me a soup sandwich that was of my own doing, and tried to distill the main collection of lessons learned. The result is this list, with some familiar things, and some new ones. Simple, and brutally in your face.

Each with a specific purpose, as a reminder of a lesson.

The Rules

  1. Don’t fuck this up.
  2. Remain silent. Keep it to yourself.
  3. Control your emotions or they will control you.
  4. Stop, look around, make a decision.
  5. Learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them.
  6. Always have a PACE for everything.

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